On Friday there was conversation floating around Cowboys Nation about rookie wide receiver Jalen Tolbert. Unfortunately, it wasn’t necessarily positive conversation.
A prominent voice in the DFW media landscape noted that the Cowboys may not have their rookie third-round pick active during the season opener on Sunday, and given that Tolbert has not been on any of the injury reports all week long, that would make him a healthy scratch.
Coincidentally, the team’s EVP, Stephen Jones, jumped on the radio airwaves on Friday afternoon a few hours after this story was floating around. Jones was specifically on San Antonio Sports Star and at the very beginning of his interview (which you can listen to here) was asked how Tolbert is coming along in his mind.
“I think he’s doing well. I think it’s one of those things, we probably asked a lot of him early. In terms of playing all the spots. Both outside and in. Probably gave him a bigger challenge than probably we needed to. But he’s going to be just fine. Obviously we’ve got with him and Houston and Simi some young guys there that are all situational-type guys depending on the team we’re playing. I think they can all step in and really do a real nice job. We’re really pleased with how they’ve come along. Certainly we’ve got Noah who’s one of the more veteran guys without Gallup in there. Then of course we’ve got CeeDee. So it’s a good group out there that we feel comfortable with that we can go win football games with.”
These aren’t indicting words by any means but they are certainly curious. Why would Jones publicly note that they “probably” gave Jalen too much and infer that the workload they assigned him wasn’t working out?
Many have criticized how the Cowboys have built their wide receiver room and it is important to note that the philosophy used here has nothing to do with Tolbert himself. As a third-round rookie who has never played in an NFL game, he should be afforded time to learn his craft and develop at the professional level.
But this is exactly why the critics have said that the Cowboys needed to add more veteran depth to their wide receiver room. They lost Cedrick Wilson in free agency and traded away Amari Cooper only to (as far as veterans go) sign James Washington (who is currently on injured reserve) and KaVontae Turpin (who is not even a veteran).
The Cowboys had no choice but to give Tolbert a big challenge because they were counting on him contributing right away, particularly with Michael Gallup now officially set to miss the season opener. It was suspect methodology and now Tolbert is the one made to look like the person who is not living up to some challenge.
What’s more is even if all of this is true, why vocalize it? Saying this out loud offers no benefit to Tolbert. It only makes him look like a player who failed to do something that the team asked of him whether directly or indirectly.